Removing a window from a home doesn’t have to be difficult, especially on homes with vinyl siding. In fact, replacing windows is often done as part of a vinyl siding installation, as the two components are often designed to work together.
However, windows occasionally need to be removed permanently to accommodate a design change or repair damage. Here we will focus on the most commonly replaced types of windows, although most other window styles are removed in a similar manner.
We will then describe the process of replacing the window with vinyl siding, along with a couple of tips the professionals use to do the job correctly. Obviously, appropriate safety gear should always be used when working with power tools and glass.
Removing The Old Window
Depending on whether you are replacing older, counter-weighted wooden windows, single-pane aluminum windows, or just a damaged one, the removal process may differ slightly. Here we will describe the typical removal process the pros use to get the job done quickly.
Single Pane Counter-Balanced Wooden Window
These are the windows common to homes built a century ago. They are often single hung, meaning only the bottom sash opens, but some are double hung. To aid in the opening of the sash, cast iron weights are attached to the outside frame of the window, which counterbalances the weight of the sash.
When removing this type of window, care must be taken to prevent the weight from falling and causing damage or injury. In most situations, these windows are nailed through the frame and into the wall studs.
To remove the window, the pros will simply remove any trim such as casing, which exposes the nail between the window frame and the rough opening. Then, using a metal blade on a reciprocating saw or hacksaw, the nails are cut, as opposed to pulling them out. This reduces the forces imparted on the window and often prevents the glass from shattering.
Aluminum Double Pane and Storm Window
Aluminum windows were very popular in the latter half of the 20th century because they solved many of the issues caused by wooden windows. One of these advancements was the way the window was installed.
In most cases, aluminum windows being replaced are from this period, and incorporate a nail fin into the design of the frame. This fin had perforated holes and was used to mount the window into the rough opening, as opposed to nailing directly through the window frame.
Unfortunately, this design makes removing the window more difficult, because the fin is intended to be covered by the exterior facade. To remove this type of window, the pros again turn to a tool capable of cutting metal, such as a reciprocating saw or hacksaw. This time instead of cutting the nails only, the actual window frame is cut.
The pros will cut all four sides of the frame into two pieces, which usually allows the piece to be removed with a pry bar.
Vinyl Window (Replacement)
In most cases, vinyl windows are removed in the same way as a traditional counter-weighted window. A typical replacement vinyl window will have four pre-drilled holes in the frame, and be installed using screws appropriate for the window size.
To remove a replacement vinyl window, the pros will often carefully remove any casing or trim from the interior and cut the screws in half. In some instances, the screws can simply be backed out using a cordless drill. However, if they cannot be, the second method is used.
Vinyl Window (New Construction)
New construction vinyl windows are usually less expensive than replacement windows and are designed to be installed quickly. New construction vinyl windows incorporate a nail fin, much like the older aluminum windows.
Removing this type of window is usually done in a similar manner, however, since vinyl is more brittle than aluminum, the nail fin will sometimes break off, making removing the window that much easier.
Replacing the Window With Vinyl Siding
Enclosing the hole left by the window removal will involve a few materials to do the job correctly. In essence, the window opening built into the wall during the original construction will be replaced, as though there was never a window there.
This project will require lumber the same thickness as the wall, which is usually a 2” x 4” stud. If the home has 2” x 6” walls, a 2” x 6” stud will be used. In most cases, the sheathing used will be 7/16” thick oriented strand board (OSB), or 15/32” plywood. Replacing house wrap and tape is also strongly recommended if your home uses it.
- Measure and Install the Stop
After the window has been removed, the rough opening should be inspected and repaired if necessary. J-channel, brick molding, and any other trim around the window is also removed at this stage.
Any flashing that doesn’t come out with the window should be removed as well. The next step is to cover the hole using the appropriate sheathing. Usually, OSB can be substituted for plywood of the same size and vice versa. However, at this stage, there is nothing to attach the sheathing to, so a stop is required. A stop, in this case, refers to the 2” x 4” studs mentioned earlier.
To begin, measure and cut four 2” x 4” pieces to fit inside the opening, and install them flush to the outside edge using #12 nails, or screws. Most homes will have stud spacing of 16” to 24”, so if the opening is wider than the stud spacing, a stud should be added to the opening to support the sheathing.
- Install the Sheathing and House Wrap
Next, cut a section of sheathing ⅛” smaller than the original opening in both directions. Note that the sheathing will completely cover the new stop, but will not require excessive force to fit.
This will ease the installation without affecting the connection. The sheathing is now installed by driving #8 nails or screws through the sheathing and into the new 2’ x 4” stop about every 8” to 10”. At this point, the house wrap and sealing tape can be replaced, if appropriate to the house.
House wrap in standard form is 150’ long and 9’ wide, so when purchasing materials, a smart move is to buy a house wrap repair kit instead. These kits will usually have just enough wrap and tape for a small repair project, such as replacing a front door, so they often work well for windows.
Professionals will install the house wrap by overlapping the existing wrap by at least 6”, and taping the joint securely.
- Replace the Siding
The final step is to replace the siding. Since the original siding was trimmed around the window, those trimmed sections will need to be replaced. Starting at the first trimmed course, remove the siding by placing a claw hammer or pry bar behind the locking tab and prying outward.
Once the course is removed, measure it for length and cut a new piece precisely the same size. Vinyl siding is installed from the bottom up, much like a shingle, so the next step is to lock the new piece by snapping it onto the locking tab of the course below it. Then, using gentle pressure, the new piece is lifted and nailed in place using a galvanized roofing tack, or other weather-resistant fastener.
These must not be driven up tightly, however, as this will cause the piece to expand and buckle when exposed to intense sunlight. Most manufacturers require about ⅛” gap between the head of the fastener and the siding. Should it become necessary to overlap two pieces horizontally, be sure and overlap the pieces by 6” to 8” as this will allow the siding to shed water more easily and makes for a more pleasant appearance.
The same procedure is then used to install each subsequent course until the project is completed.
Pro Tip. When working with vinyl siding, remember there is usually a distinct left and right side. The pros take care to cut from the same end every time, which helps reduce mistakes and material waste.
Replacing Windows is Simple With Vinyl Siding
Replacing a window with vinyl siding can be a very rewarding experience that saves time and money. Whether replacing a window due to old age, damage, or a design change, the process will be the same. The most important things to remember are to have the correct materials, pay attention to the details, and most importantly, do it safely.